Women in the Workplace 2023

women's career essay

Women in the Workplace

This is the ninth year of the Women in the Workplace report. Conducted in partnership with LeanIn.Org , this effort is the largest study of women in corporate America and Canada. This year, we collected information from 276 participating organizations employing more than ten million people. At these organizations, we surveyed more than 27,000 employees and 270 senior HR leaders, who shared insights on their policies and practices. The report provides an intersectional look at the specific biases and barriers faced by Asian, Black, Latina, and LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities.

About the authors

This year’s research reveals some hard-fought gains at the top, with women’s representation in the C-suite at the highest it has ever been. However, with lagging progress in the middle of the pipeline—and a persistent underrepresentation of women of color 1 Women of color include women who are Asian, Black, Latina, Middle Eastern, mixed race, Native American/American Indian/Indigenous/Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Due to small sample sizes for other racial and ethnic groups, reported findings on individual racial and ethnic groups are restricted to Asian women, Black women, and Latinas. —true parity remains painfully out of reach.

The survey debunks four myths about women’s workplace experiences  and career advancement. A few of these myths cover old ground, but given the notable lack of progress, they warrant repeating. These include women’s career ambitions, the greatest barrier to their ascent to senior leadership, the effect and extent of microaggressions in the workplace, and women’s appetite for flexible work. We hope highlighting these myths will help companies find a path forward that casts aside outdated thinking once and for all and accelerates progress for women.

The rest of this article summarizes the main findings from the Women in the Workplace 2023 report and provides clear solutions that organizations can implement to make meaningful progress toward gender equality.

State of the pipeline

Over the past nine years, women—and especially women of color—have remained underrepresented across the corporate pipeline (Exhibit 1). However, we see a growing bright spot in senior leadership. Since 2015, the number of women in the C-suite has increased from 17 to 28 percent, and the representation of women at the vice president and senior vice president levels has also improved significantly.

These hard-earned gains are encouraging yet fragile: slow progress for women at the manager and director levels—representation has grown only three and four percentage points, respectively—creates a weak middle in the pipeline for employees who represent the vast majority of women in corporate America. And the “Great Breakup” trend we discovered in last year’s survey  continues for women at the director level, the group next in line for senior-leadership positions. That is, director-level women are leaving at a higher rate than in past years—and at a notably higher rate than men at the same level. As a result of these two dynamics, there are fewer women in line for top positions.

To view previous reports, please visit the Women in the Workplace archive

Moreover, progress for women of color is lagging behind their peers’ progress. At nearly every step in the pipeline, the representation of women of color falls relative to White women and men of the same race and ethnicity. Until companies address this inequity head-on, women of color will remain severely underrepresented in leadership positions—and mostly absent from the C-suite.

“It’s disheartening to be part of an organization for as many years as I have been and still not see a person like me in senior leadership. Until I see somebody like me in the C-suite, I’m never going to really feel like I belong.”
—Latina, manager, former executive director

Woman working at a desk

Four myths about the state of women at work

This year’s survey reveals the truth about four common myths related to women in the workplace.

Myth: Women are becoming less ambitious Reality: Women are more ambitious than before the pandemic—and flexibility is fueling that ambition

At every stage of the pipeline, women are as committed to their careers and as interested in being promoted as men. Women and men at the director level—when the C-suite is in closer view—are also equally interested in senior-leadership roles. And young women are especially ambitious. Nine in ten women under the age of 30 want to be promoted to the next level, and three in four aspire to become senior leaders.

Women represent roughly one in four C-suite leaders, and women of color just one in 16.

Moreover, the pandemic and increased flexibility did not dampen women’s ambitions. Roughly 80 percent of women want to be promoted to the next level, compared with 70 percent in 2019. And the same holds true for men. Women of color are even more ambitious than White women: 88 percent want to be promoted to the next level. Flexibility is allowing women to pursue their ambitions: overall, one in five women say flexibility has helped them stay in their job or avoid reducing their hours. A large number of women who work hybrid or remotely point to feeling less fatigued and burned out as a primary benefit. And a majority of women report having more focused time to get their work done when they work remotely.

The pandemic showed women that a new model of balancing work and life was possible. Now, few want to return to the way things were. Most women are taking more steps to prioritize their personal lives—but at no cost to their ambition. They remain just as committed to their careers and just as interested in advancing as women who aren’t taking more steps. These women are defying the outdated notion that work and life are incompatible, and that one comes at the expense of the other.

Myth: The biggest barrier to women’s advancement is the ‘glass ceiling’ Reality: The ‘broken rung’ is the greatest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership

For the ninth consecutive year, women face their biggest hurdle at the first critical step up to manager. This year, for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, 87 women were promoted (Exhibit 2). And this gap is trending the wrong way for women of color: this year, 73 women of color were promoted to manager for every 100 men, down from 82 women of color last year. As a result of this “broken rung,” women fall behind and can’t catch up.

Progress for early-career Black women remains the furthest behind. After rising in 2020 and 2021 to a high of 96 Black women promoted for every 100 men—likely because of heightened focus across corporate America—Black women’s promotion rates have fallen to 2018 levels, with only 54 Black women promoted for every 100 men this year.

While companies are modestly increasing women’s representation at the top, doing so without addressing the broken rung offers only a temporary stopgap. Because of the gender disparity in early promotions, men end up holding 60 percent of manager-level positions in a typical company, while women occupy 40 percent. Since men significantly outnumber women, there are fewer women to promote to senior managers, and the number of women decreases at every subsequent level.

Myth: Microaggressions have a ‘micro’ impact Reality: Microaggressions have a large and lasting impact on women

Microaggressions are a form of everyday discrimination that is often rooted in bias. They include comments and actions—even subtle ones that are not overtly harmful—that demean or dismiss someone based on their gender, race, or other aspects of their identity. They signal disrespect, cause acute stress, and can negatively impact women’s careers and health.

Years of data show that women experience microaggressions at a significantly higher rate than men: they are twice as likely to be mistaken for someone junior and hear comments on their emotional state (Exhibit 3). For women with traditionally marginalized identities, these slights happen more often and are even more demeaning. As just one example, Asian and Black women are seven times more likely than White women to be confused with someone of the same race and ethnicity.

As a result, the workplace is a mental minefield for many women, particularly those with traditionally marginalized identities. Women who experience microaggressions are much less likely to feel psychologically safe, which makes it harder to take risks, propose new ideas, or raise concerns. The stakes feel just too high. On top of this, 78 percent of women who face microaggressions self-shield at work, or adjust the way they look or act in an effort to protect themselves. For example, many women code-switch—or tone down what they say or do—to try to blend in and avoid a negative reaction at work. Black women are more than twice as likely as women overall to code-switch. And LGBTQ+ women are 2.5 times as likely to feel pressure to change their appearance to be perceived as more professional. The stress caused by these dynamics cuts deep.

Women who experience microaggressions—and self-shield to deflect them—are three times more likely to think about quitting their jobs and four times more likely to almost always be burned out. By leaving microaggressions unchecked, companies miss out on everything women have to offer and risk losing talented employees.

“It’s like I have to act extra happy so I’m not looked at as bitter because I’m a Black woman. And a disabled Black woman at that. If someone says something offensive to me, I have to think about how to respond in a way that does not make me seem like an angry Black woman.”
—Black woman with a physical disability, entry-level role

Seated woman in a meeting

Myth: It’s mostly women who want—and benefit from—flexible work Reality: Men and women see flexibility as a ‘top 3’ employee benefit and critical to their company’s success

Most employees say that opportunities to work remotely and have control over their schedules are top company benefits, second only to healthcare (Exhibit 4). Workplace flexibility even ranks above tried-and-true benefits such as parental leave and childcare.

As workplace flexibility transforms from a nice-to-have for some employees to a crucial benefit for most, women continue to value it more. This is likely because they still carry out a disproportionate amount of childcare and household work. Indeed, 38 percent of mothers with young children say that without workplace flexibility, they would have had to leave their company or reduce their work hours.

But it’s not just women or mothers who benefit: hybrid and remote work are delivering important benefits to most employees. Most women and men point to better work–life balance as a primary benefit of hybrid and remote work, and a majority cite less fatigue and burnout (Exhibit 5). And research shows that good work–life balance and low burnout are key to organizational success. Moreover, 83 percent of employees cite the ability to work more efficiently and productively as a primary benefit of working remotely. However, it’s worth noting companies see this differently: only half of HR leaders say employee productivity is a primary benefit of working remotely.

For women, hybrid or remote work is about a lot more than flexibility. When women work remotely, they face fewer microaggressions and have higher levels of psychological safety.

Employees who work on-site also see tangible benefits. A majority point to an easier time collaborating and a stronger personal connection to coworkers as the biggest benefits of working on-site—two factors central to employee well-being and effectiveness. However, the culture of on-site work may be falling short. While 77 percent of companies believe a strong organizational culture is a key benefit of on-site work, most employees disagree: only 39 percent of men and 34 percent of women who work on-site say a key benefit is feeling more connected to their organization’s culture.

Not to mention that men benefit disproportionately from on-site work: compared with women who work on-site, men are seven to nine percentage points more likely to be “in the know,” receive the mentorship and sponsorships they need, and have their accomplishments noticed and rewarded.

A majority of organizations have started to formalize their return-to-office policies, motivated by the perceived benefits of on-site work (Exhibit 6). As they do so, they will need to work to ensure everyone can equally reap the benefits of on-site work.

Recommendations for companies

As companies work to support and advance women, they should focus on five core areas:

  • tracking outcomes for women’s representation
  • empowering managers to be effective people leaders
  • addressing microaggressions head-on
  • unlocking the full potential of flexible work
  • fixing the broken rung, once and for all
Sixty percent of companies have increased their financial and staffing investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion over the past year. And nearly three in four HR leaders say DEI is critical to their companies’ future success.

1. Track outcomes to improve women’s experience and progression

Tracking outcomes is critical to any successful business initiative. Most companies do this consistently when it comes to achieving their financial objectives, but few apply the same rigor to women’s advancement. Here are three steps to get started:

Measure employees’ outcomes and experiences—and use the data to fix trouble spots. Outcomes for drivers of women’s advancement include hiring, promotions, and attrition. Visibility into other metrics—such as participation in career development programs, performance ratings, and employee sentiments—that influence career progression is also important, and data should be collected with appropriate data privacy protections in place. Then, it’s critically important that companies mine their data for insights that will improve women’s experiences and create equal opportunities for advancement. Ultimately, data tracking is only valuable if it leads to organizational change.

Take an intersectional approach to outcome tracking. Tracking metrics by race and gender combined should be table stakes. Yet, even now, fewer than half of companies do this, and far fewer track data by other self-reported identifiers, such as LGBTQ+ identity. Without this level of visibility, the experiences and career progression of women with traditionally marginalized identities can go overlooked.

Share internal goals and metrics with employees. Awareness is a valuable tool for driving change—when employees are able to see opportunities and challenges, they’re more invested in being part of the solution. In addition, transparency with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals and metrics can send a powerful signal to employees with traditionally marginalized identities that they are supported within the organization.

2. Support and reward managers as key drivers of organizational change

Managers are on the front lines of employees’ experiences and central to driving organizational change. As companies more deeply invest in the culture of work, managers play an increasingly critical role in fostering DEI, ensuring employee well-being, and navigating the shift to flexible work. These are all important business priorities, but managers do not always get the direction and support they need to deliver on them. Here are three steps to get started:

Clarify managers’ priorities and reward results. Companies need to explicitly communicate to managers what is core to their roles and motivate them to take action. The most effective way to do this is to include responsibilities like career development, DEI, and employee well-being in managers’ job descriptions and performance reviews. Relatively few companies evaluate managers on metrics linked to people management. For example, although 61 percent of companies point to DEI as a top manager capability, only 28 percent of people managers say their company recognizes DEI in performance reviews. This discrepancy may partially explain why not enough employees say their manager treats DEI as a priority.

Equip managers with the skills they need to be successful. To effectively manage the new demands being placed on them, managers need ongoing education. This includes repeated, relevant, and high-quality training and nudges that emphasize specific examples of core concepts, as well as concrete actions that managers can incorporate into their daily practices. Companies should adopt an “often and varied” approach to training and upskilling and create regular opportunities for coaching so that managers can continue to build the awareness and capabilities they need to be effective.

Make sure managers have the time and support to get it right. It requires significant intentionality and follow-through to be a good people and culture leader, and this is particularly true when it comes to fostering DEI. Companies need to make sure their managers have the time and resources to do these aspects of their job well. Additionally, companies should put policies and systems in place to make managers’ jobs easier.

3. Take steps to put an end to microaggressions

Microaggressions are pervasive, harmful to the employees who experience them, and result in missed ideas and lost talent. Companies need to tackle microaggressions head-on. Here are three steps to get started:

Make clear that microaggressions are not acceptable. To raise employee awareness and set the right tone, it’s crucial that senior leaders communicate that microaggressions and disrespectful behavior of any kind are not welcome. Companies can help with this by developing a code of conduct that articulates what supportive and respectful behavior looks like—as well as what’s unacceptable and uncivil behavior.

Teach employees to avoid and challenge microaggressions. Employees often don’t recognize microaggressions, let alone know what to say or do to be helpful. That’s why it’s so important that companies have employees participate in high-quality bias and allyship training and receive periodic refreshers to keep key learnings top of mind.

Create a culture where it’s normal to surface microaggressions. It’s important for companies to foster a culture that encourages employees to speak up when they see microaggressions or other disrespectful behavior. Although these conversations can be difficult, they often lead to valuable learning and growth. Senior leaders can play an important role in modeling that it is safe to surface and discuss these behaviors.

4. Finetune flexible working models

The past few years have seen a transformation in how we work. Flexibility is now the norm in most companies; the next step is unlocking its full potential and bringing out the best of the benefits that different work arrangements have to offer. Here are three steps to get started:

Establish clear expectations and norms around working flexibly. Without this clarity, employees may have very different and conflicting interpretations of what’s expected of them. It starts with redefining the work best done in person, versus remotely, and injecting flexibility into the work model to meet personal demands. As part of this process, companies need to find the right balance between setting organization-wide guidelines and allowing managers to work with their teams to determine an approach that unlocks benefits for men and women equally.

Measure the impact of new initiatives to support flexibility and adjust them as needed. The last thing companies want to do is fly in the dark as they navigate the transition to flexible work. As organizations roll out new working models and programs to support flexibility, they should carefully track what’s working, and what’s not, and adjust their approach accordingly—a test-and-learn mentality and a spirit of co-creation with employees are critical to getting these changes right.

Few companies currently track outcomes across work arrangements. For example, only 30 percent have tracked the impact of their return-to-office policies on key DEI outcomes.

Put safeguards in place to ensure a level playing field across work arrangements. Companies should take steps to ensure that employees aren’t penalized for working flexibly. This includes putting systems in place to make sure that employees are evaluated fairly, such as redesigning performance reviews to focus on results rather than when and where work gets done. Managers should also be equipped to be part of the solution. This requires educating managers on proximity bias. Managers need to ensure their team members get equal recognition for their contributions and equal opportunities to advance regardless of working model.

5. Fix the broken rung for women, with a focus on women of color

Fixing the broken rung is a tangible, achievable goal and will set off a positive chain reaction across the pipeline. After nine years of very little progress, there is no excuse for companies failing to take action. Here are three steps to get started:

Track inputs and outcomes. To uncover inequities in the promotions process, companies need to track who is put up for and who receives promotions—by race and gender combined. Tracking with this intersectional lens enables employers to identify and address the obstacles faced by women of color, and companies can use these data points to identify otherwise invisible gaps and refine their promotion processes.

Work to de-bias performance reviews and promotions. Leaders should put safeguards in place to ensure that evaluation criteria are applied fairly and bias doesn’t creep into decision making. Companies can take these actions:

  • Send “bias” reminders before performance evaluations and promotion cycles, explaining how common biases can impact reviewers’ assessments.
  • Appoint a “bias monitor” to keep performance evaluations and promotions discussions focused on the core criteria for the job and surface potentially biased decision making.
  • Have reviewers explain the rationale behind their performance evaluations and promotion recommendations. When individuals have to justify their decisions, they are less likely to make snap judgments or rely on gut feelings, which are prone to bias.

Invest in career advancement for women of color. Companies should make sure their career development programs address the distinct biases and barriers that women of color experience. Yet only a fraction of companies tailor career program content for women of color. And given that women of color tend to get less career advice and have less access to senior leaders, formal mentorship and sponsorship programs can be particularly impactful. It’s also important that companies track the outcomes of their career development programs with an intersectional lens to ensure they are having the intended impact and not inadvertently perpetuating inequitable outcomes.

Practices of top-performing companies

Companies with strong women’s representation across the pipeline are more likely to have certain practices in place. The following data are based on an analysis of top performers—companies that have a higher representation of women and women of color than their industry peers (Exhibit 7).

This year’s survey brings to light important realities about women’s experience in the workplace today. Women, and particularly women of color, continue to lose the most ground in middle management, and microaggressions have a significant and enduring effect on many women—especially those with traditionally marginalized identities. Even still, women are as ambitious as ever, and flexibility is contributing to this, allowing all workers to be more productive while also achieving more balance in their lives. These insights can provide a backdrop for senior leaders as they plan for the future of their organizations.

Emily Field is a partner in McKinsey’s Seattle office; Alexis Krivkovich and Lareina Yee are senior partners in the Bay Area office, where Nicole Robinson is an associate partner; Sandra Kügele is a consultant in the Washington, D.C., office.

The authors wish to thank Zoha Bharwani, Quentin Bolton, Sara Callander, Katie Cox, Ping Chin, Robyn Freeman, James Gannon, Jenn Gao, Mar Grech, Alexis Howard, Isabelle Hughes, Sara Kaplan, Ananya Karanam, Sophia Lam, Nina Li, Steven Lee, Anthea Lyu, Tess Mandoli, Abena Mensah, Laura Padula, David Pinski, Jane Qu, Charlie Rixey, Sara Samir, Chanel Shum, Sofia Tam, Neha Verma, Monne Williams, Lily Xu, Yaz Yazar, and Shirley Zhao for their contributions to this article.

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Women in the Workplace 2022

The history of women’s work and wages and how it has created success for us all

As we celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, we should also celebrate the major strides women have made in the labor market. Their entry into paid work has been a major factor in America’s prosperity over the past century and a quarter.

Despite this progress, evidence suggests that many women remain unable to achieve their goals. The gap in earnings between women and men, although smaller than it was years ago, is still significant; women continue to be underrepresented in certain industries and occupations; and too many women struggle to combine aspirations for work and family. Further advancement has been hampered by barriers to equal opportunity and workplace rules and norms that fail to support a reasonable work-life balance. If these obstacles persist, we will squander the potential of many of our citizens and incur a substantial loss to the productive capacity of our economy at a time when the aging of the population and weak productivity growth are already weighing on economic growth.

A historical perspective on women in the labor force

In the early 20th century, most women in the United States did not work outside the home, and those who did were primarily young and unmarried. In that era, just 20 percent of all women were “gainful workers,” as the Census Bureau then categorized labor force participation outside the home, and only 5 percent of those married were categorized as such. Of course, these statistics somewhat understate the contributions of married women to the economy beyond housekeeping and childrearing, since women’s work in the home often included work in family businesses and the home production of goods, such as agricultural products, for sale. Also, the aggregate statistics obscure the differential experience of women by race. African American women were about twice as likely to participate in the labor force as were white women at the time, largely because they were more likely to remain in the labor force after marriage.

If these obstacles persist, we will squander the potential of many of our citizens and incur a substantial loss to the productive capacity of our economy at a time when the aging of the population and weak productivity growth are already weighing on economic growth.

The fact that many women left work upon marriage reflected cultural norms, the nature of the work available to them, and legal strictures. The occupational choices of those young women who did work were severely circumscribed. Most women lacked significant education—and women with little education mostly toiled as piece workers in factories or as domestic workers, jobs that were dirty and often unsafe. Educated women were scarce. Fewer than 2 percent of all 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in an institution of higher education, and just one-third of those were women. Such women did not have to perform manual labor, but their choices were likewise constrained.

Despite the widespread sentiment against women, particularly married women, working outside the home and with the limited opportunities available to them, women did enter the labor force in greater numbers over this period, with participation rates reaching nearly 50 percent for single women by 1930 and nearly 12 percent for married women. This rise suggests that while the incentive—and in many cases the imperative—remained for women to drop out of the labor market at marriage when they could rely on their husband’s income, mores were changing. Indeed, these years overlapped with the so-called first wave of the women’s movement, when women came together to agitate for change on a variety of social issues, including suffrage and temperance, and which culminated in the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Between the 1930s and mid-1970s, women’s participation in the economy continued to rise, with the gains primarily owing to an increase in work among married women. By 1970, 50 percent of single women and 40 percent of married women were participating in the labor force. Several factors contributed to this rise. First, with the advent of mass high school education, graduation rates rose substantially. At the same time, new technologies contributed to an increased demand for clerical workers, and these jobs were increasingly taken on by women. Moreover, because these jobs tended to be cleaner and safer, the stigma attached to work for a married woman diminished. And while there were still marriage bars that forced women out of the labor force, these formal barriers were gradually removed over the period following World War II.

Over the decades from 1930 to 1970, increasing opportunities also arose for highly educated women. That said, early in that period, most women still expected to have short careers, and women were still largely viewed as secondary earners whose husbands’ careers came first.

As time progressed, attitudes about women working and their employment prospects changed. As women gained experience in the labor force, they increasingly saw that they could balance work and family. A new model of the two-income family emerged. Some women began to attend college and graduate school with the expectation of working, whether or not they planned to marry and have families.

By the 1970s, a dramatic change in women’s work lives was under way. In the period after World War II, many women had not expected that they would spend as much of their adult lives working as turned out to be the case. By contrast, in the 1970s young women more commonly expected that they would spend a substantial portion of their lives in the labor force, and they prepared for it, increasing their educational attainment and taking courses and college majors that better equipped them for careers as opposed to just jobs.

These changes in attitudes and expectations were supported by other changes under way in society. Workplace protections were enhanced through the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 and the recognition of sexual harassment in the workplace. Access to birth control increased, which allowed married couples greater control over the size of their families and young women the ability to delay marriage and to plan children around their educational and work choices. And in 1974, women gained, for the first time, the right to apply for credit in their own name without a male co-signer.

By the early 1990s, the labor force participation rate of prime working-age women—those between the ages of 25 and 54—reached just over 74 percent, compared with roughly 93 percent for prime working-age men. By then, the share of women going into the traditional fields of teaching, nursing, social work, and clerical work declined, and more women were becoming doctors, lawyers, managers, and professors. As women increased their education and joined industries and occupations formerly dominated by men, the gap in earnings between women and men began to close significantly.

Remaining challenges and some possible solutions

We, as a country, have reaped great benefits from the increasing role that women have played in the economy. But evidence suggests that barriers to women’s continued progress remain. The participation rate for prime working-age women peaked in the late 1990s and currently stands at about 76 percent. Of course, women, particularly those with lower levels of education, have been affected by the same economic forces that have been pushing down participation among men, including technical change and globalization. However, women’s participation plateaued at a level well below that of prime working-age men, which stands at about 89 percent. While some married women choose not to work, the size of this disparity should lead us to examine the extent to which structural problems, such as a lack of equal opportunity and challenges to combining work and family, are holding back women’s advancement.

Recent research has shown that although women now enter professional schools in numbers nearly equal to men, they are still substantially less likely to reach the highest echelons of their professions.

The gap in earnings between men and women has narrowed substantially, but progress has slowed lately, and women working full time still earn about 17 percent less than men, on average, each week. Even when we compare men and women in the same or similar occupations who appear nearly identical in background and experience, a gap of about 10 percent typically remains. As such, we cannot rule out that gender-related impediments hold back women, including outright discrimination, attitudes that reduce women’s success in the workplace, and an absence of mentors.

Recent research has shown that although women now enter professional schools in numbers nearly equal to men, they are still substantially less likely to reach the highest echelons of their professions. Even in my own field of economics, women constitute only about one-third of Ph.D. recipients, a number that has barely budged in two decades. This lack of success in climbing the professional ladder would seem to explain why the wage gap actually remains largest for those at the top of the earnings distribution.

One of the primary factors contributing to the failure of these highly skilled women to reach the tops of their professions and earn equal pay is that top jobs in fields such as law and business require longer workweeks and penalize taking time off. This would have a disproportionately large effect on women who continue to bear the lion’s share of domestic and child-rearing responsibilities.

But it can be difficult for women to meet the demands in these fields once they have children. The very fact that these types of jobs require such long hours likely discourages some women—as well as men—from pursuing these career tracks. Advances in technology have facilitated greater work-sharing and flexibility in scheduling, and there are further opportunities in this direction. Economic models also suggest that while it can be difficult for any one employer to move to a model with shorter hours, if many firms were to change their model, they and their workers could all be better off.

Of course, most women are not employed in fields that require such long hours or that impose such severe penalties for taking time off. But the difficulty of balancing work and family is a widespread problem. In fact, the recent trend in many occupations is to demand complete scheduling flexibility, which can result in too few hours of work for those with family demands and can make it difficult to schedule childcare. Reforms that encourage companies to provide some predictability in schedules, cross-train workers to perform different tasks, or require a minimum guaranteed number of hours in exchange for flexibility could improve the lives of workers holding such jobs. Another problem is that in most states, childcare is affordable for fewer than half of all families. And just 5 percent of workers with wages in the bottom quarter of the wage distribution have jobs that provide them with paid family leave. This circumstance puts many women in the position of having to choose between caring for a sick family member and keeping their jobs.

This possibility should inform our own thinking about policies to make it easier for women and men to combine their family and career aspirations. For instance, improving access to affordable and good quality childcare would appear to fit the bill, as it has been shown to support full-time employment. Recently, there also seems to be some momentum for providing families with paid leave at the time of childbirth. The experience in Europe suggests picking policies that do not narrowly target childbirth, but instead can be used to meet a variety of health and caregiving responsibilities.

The United States faces a number of longer-term economic challenges, including the aging of the population and the low growth rate of productivity. One recent study estimates that increasing the female participation rate to that of men would raise our gross domestic product by 5 percent. Our workplaces and families, as well as women themselves, would benefit from continued progress. However, a number of factors appear to be holding women back, including the difficulty women currently have in trying to combine their careers with other aspects of their lives, including caregiving. In looking to solutions, we should consider improvements to work environments and policies that benefit not only women, but all workers. Pursuing such a strategy would be in keeping with the story of the rise in women’s involvement in the workforce, which has contributed not only to their own well-being but more broadly to the welfare and prosperity of our country.

This essay is a revised version of a speech that Janet Yellen, then chair of the Federal Reserve, delivered on May 5, 2017 at the “125 Years of Women at Brown Conference,” sponsored by Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Yellen would like to thank Stephanie Aaronson, now vice president and director of Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, for her assistance in the preparation of the original remarks. Read the full text of the speech here »

About the Author

Janet l. yellen, distinguished fellow in residence – economic studies, the hutchins center on fiscal and monetary policy, more from janet yellen.

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Report | Wages, Incomes, and Wealth

“Women’s work” and the gender pay gap : How discrimination, societal norms, and other forces affect women’s occupational choices—and their pay

Report • By Jessica Schieder and Elise Gould • July 20, 2016

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What this report finds: Women are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men—despite the fact that over the last several decades millions more women have joined the workforce and made huge gains in their educational attainment. Too often it is assumed that this pay gap is not evidence of discrimination, but is instead a statistical artifact of failing to adjust for factors that could drive earnings differences between men and women. However, these factors—particularly occupational differences between women and men—are themselves often affected by gender bias. For example, by the time a woman earns her first dollar, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, expectations set by those who raised her, hiring practices of firms, and widespread norms and expectations about work–family balance held by employers, co-workers, and society. In other words, even though women disproportionately enter lower-paid, female-dominated occupations, this decision is shaped by discrimination, societal norms, and other forces beyond women’s control.

Why it matters, and how to fix it: The gender wage gap is real—and hurts women across the board by suppressing their earnings and making it harder to balance work and family. Serious attempts to understand the gender wage gap should not include shifting the blame to women for not earning more. Rather, these attempts should examine where our economy provides unequal opportunities for women at every point of their education, training, and career choices.

Introduction and key findings

Women are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men (Hegewisch and DuMonthier 2016). This is despite the fact that over the last several decades millions more women have joined the workforce and made huge gains in their educational attainment.

Critics of this widely cited statistic claim it is not solid evidence of economic discrimination against women because it is unadjusted for characteristics other than gender that can affect earnings, such as years of education, work experience, and location. Many of these skeptics contend that the gender wage gap is driven not by discrimination, but instead by voluntary choices made by men and women—particularly the choice of occupation in which they work. And occupational differences certainly do matter—occupation and industry account for about half of the overall gender wage gap (Blau and Kahn 2016).

To isolate the impact of overt gender discrimination—such as a woman being paid less than her male coworker for doing the exact same job—it is typical to adjust for such characteristics. But these adjusted statistics can radically understate the potential for gender discrimination to suppress women’s earnings. This is because gender discrimination does not occur only in employers’ pay-setting practices. It can happen at every stage leading to women’s labor market outcomes.

Take one key example: occupation of employment. While controlling for occupation does indeed reduce the measured gender wage gap, the sorting of genders into different occupations can itself be driven (at least in part) by discrimination. By the time a woman earns her first dollar, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, expectations set by those who raised her, hiring practices of firms, and widespread norms and expectations about work–family balance held by employers, co-workers, and society. In other words, even though women disproportionately enter lower-paid, female-dominated occupations, this decision is shaped by discrimination, societal norms, and other forces beyond women’s control.

This paper explains why gender occupational sorting is itself part of the discrimination women face, examines how this sorting is shaped by societal and economic forces, and explains that gender pay gaps are present even  within  occupations.

Key points include:

  • Gender pay gaps within occupations persist, even after accounting for years of experience, hours worked, and education.
  • Decisions women make about their occupation and career do not happen in a vacuum—they are also shaped by society.
  • The long hours required by the highest-paid occupations can make it difficult for women to succeed, since women tend to shoulder the majority of family caretaking duties.
  • Many professions dominated by women are low paid, and professions that have become female-dominated have become lower paid.

This report examines wages on an hourly basis. Technically, this is an adjusted gender wage gap measure. As opposed to weekly or annual earnings, hourly earnings ignore the fact that men work more hours on average throughout a week or year. Thus, the hourly gender wage gap is a bit smaller than the 79 percent figure cited earlier. This minor adjustment allows for a comparison of women’s and men’s wages without assuming that women, who still shoulder a disproportionate amount of responsibilities at home, would be able or willing to work as many hours as their male counterparts. Examining the hourly gender wage gap allows for a more thorough conversation about how many factors create the wage gap women experience when they cash their paychecks.

Within-occupation gender wage gaps are large—and persist after controlling for education and other factors

Those keen on downplaying the gender wage gap often claim women voluntarily choose lower pay by disproportionately going into stereotypically female professions or by seeking out lower-paid positions. But even when men and women work in the same occupation—whether as hairdressers, cosmetologists, nurses, teachers, computer engineers, mechanical engineers, or construction workers—men make more, on average, than women (CPS microdata 2011–2015).

As a thought experiment, imagine if women’s occupational distribution mirrored men’s. For example, if 2 percent of men are carpenters, suppose 2 percent of women become carpenters. What would this do to the wage gap? After controlling for differences in education and preferences for full-time work, Goldin (2014) finds that 32 percent of the gender pay gap would be closed.

However, leaving women in their current occupations and just closing the gaps between women and their male counterparts within occupations (e.g., if male and female civil engineers made the same per hour) would close 68 percent of the gap. This means examining why waiters and waitresses, for example, with the same education and work experience do not make the same amount per hour. To quote Goldin:

Another way to measure the effect of occupation is to ask what would happen to the aggregate gender gap if one equalized earnings by gender within each occupation or, instead, evened their proportions for each occupation. The answer is that equalizing earnings within each occupation matters far more than equalizing the proportions by each occupation. (Goldin 2014)

This phenomenon is not limited to low-skilled occupations, and women cannot educate themselves out of the gender wage gap (at least in terms of broad formal credentials). Indeed, women’s educational attainment outpaces men’s; 37.0 percent of women have a college or advanced degree, as compared with 32.5 percent of men (CPS ORG 2015). Furthermore, women earn less per hour at every education level, on average. As shown in Figure A , men with a college degree make more per hour than women with an advanced degree. Likewise, men with a high school degree make more per hour than women who attended college but did not graduate. Even straight out of college, women make $4 less per hour than men—a gap that has grown since 2000 (Kroeger, Cooke, and Gould 2016).

Women earn less than men at every education level : Average hourly wages, by gender and education, 2015

Education level Men Women
Less than high school $13.93 $10.89
High school $18.61 $14.57
Some college $20.95 $16.59
College $35.23 $26.51
Advanced degree $45.84 $33.65

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

The data underlying the figure.

Source :  EPI analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata

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Steering women to certain educational and professional career paths—as well as outright discrimination—can lead to different occupational outcomes

The gender pay gap is driven at least in part by the cumulative impact of many instances over the course of women’s lives when they are treated differently than their male peers. Girls can be steered toward gender-normative careers from a very early age. At a time when parental influence is key, parents are often more likely to expect their sons, rather than their daughters, to work in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields, even when their daughters perform at the same level in mathematics (OECD 2015).

Expectations can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. A 2005 study found third-grade girls rated their math competency scores much lower than boys’, even when these girls’ performance did not lag behind that of their male counterparts (Herbert and Stipek 2005). Similarly, in states where people were more likely to say that “women [are] better suited for home” and “math is for boys,” girls were more likely to have lower math scores and higher reading scores (Pope and Sydnor 2010). While this only establishes a correlation, there is no reason to believe gender aptitude in reading and math would otherwise be related to geography. Parental expectations can impact performance by influencing their children’s self-confidence because self-confidence is associated with higher test scores (OECD 2015).

By the time young women graduate from high school and enter college, they already evaluate their career opportunities differently than young men do. Figure B shows college freshmen’s intended majors by gender. While women have increasingly gone into medical school and continue to dominate the nursing field, women are significantly less likely to arrive at college interested in engineering, computer science, or physics, as compared with their male counterparts.

Women arrive at college less interested in STEM fields as compared with their male counterparts : Intent of first-year college students to major in select STEM fields, by gender, 2014

Intended major Percentage of men Percentage of women
Biological and life sciences 11% 16%
Engineering 19% 6%
Chemistry 1% 1%
Computer science 6% 1%
Mathematics/ statistics 1% 1%
Physics 1% 0.3%

Source:  EPI adaptation of Corbett and Hill (2015) analysis of Eagan et al. (2014)

These decisions to allow doors to lucrative job opportunities to close do not take place in a vacuum. Many factors might make it difficult for a young woman to see herself working in computer science or a similarly remunerative field. A particularly depressing example is the well-publicized evidence of sexism in the tech industry (Hewlett et al. 2008). Unfortunately, tech isn’t the only STEM field with this problem.

Young women may be discouraged from certain career paths because of industry culture. Even for women who go against the grain and pursue STEM careers, if employers in the industry foster an environment hostile to women’s participation, the share of women in these occupations will be limited. One 2008 study found that “52 percent of highly qualified females working for SET [science, technology, and engineering] companies quit their jobs, driven out by hostile work environments and extreme job pressures” (Hewlett et al. 2008). Extreme job pressures are defined as working more than 100 hours per week, needing to be available 24/7, working with or managing colleagues in multiple time zones, and feeling pressure to put in extensive face time (Hewlett et al. 2008). As compared with men, more than twice as many women engage in housework on a daily basis, and women spend twice as much time caring for other household members (BLS 2015). Because of these cultural norms, women are less likely to be able to handle these extreme work pressures. In addition, 63 percent of women in SET workplaces experience sexual harassment (Hewlett et al. 2008). To make matters worse, 51 percent abandon their SET training when they quit their job. All of these factors play a role in steering women away from highly paid occupations, particularly in STEM fields.

The long hours required for some of the highest-paid occupations are incompatible with historically gendered family responsibilities

Those seeking to downplay the gender wage gap often suggest that women who work hard enough and reach the apex of their field will see the full fruits of their labor. In reality, however, the gender wage gap is wider for those with higher earnings. Women in the top 95th percentile of the wage distribution experience a much larger gender pay gap than lower-paid women.

Again, this large gender pay gap between the highest earners is partially driven by gender bias. Harvard economist Claudia Goldin (2014) posits that high-wage firms have adopted pay-setting practices that disproportionately reward individuals who work very long and very particular hours. This means that even if men and women are equally productive per hour, individuals—disproportionately men—who are more likely to work excessive hours and be available at particular off-hours are paid more highly (Hersch and Stratton 2002; Goldin 2014; Landers, Rebitzer, and Taylor 1996).

It is clear why this disadvantages women. Social norms and expectations exert pressure on women to bear a disproportionate share of domestic work—particularly caring for children and elderly parents. This can make it particularly difficult for them (relative to their male peers) to be available at the drop of a hat on a Sunday evening after working a 60-hour week. To the extent that availability to work long and particular hours makes the difference between getting a promotion or seeing one’s career stagnate, women are disadvantaged.

And this disadvantage is reinforced in a vicious circle. Imagine a household where both members of a male–female couple have similarly demanding jobs. One partner’s career is likely to be prioritized if a grandparent is hospitalized or a child’s babysitter is sick. If the past history of employer pay-setting practices that disadvantage women has led to an already-existing gender wage gap for this couple, it can be seen as “rational” for this couple to prioritize the male’s career. This perpetuates the expectation that it always makes sense for women to shoulder the majority of domestic work, and further exacerbates the gender wage gap.

Female-dominated professions pay less, but it’s a chicken-and-egg phenomenon

Many women do go into low-paying female-dominated industries. Home health aides, for example, are much more likely to be women. But research suggests that women are making a logical choice, given existing constraints . This is because they will likely not see a significant pay boost if they try to buck convention and enter male-dominated occupations. Exceptions certainly exist, particularly in the civil service or in unionized workplaces (Anderson, Hegewisch, and Hayes 2015). However, if women in female-dominated occupations were to go into male-dominated occupations, they would often have similar or lower expected wages as compared with their female counterparts in female-dominated occupations (Pitts 2002). Thus, many women going into female-dominated occupations are actually situating themselves to earn higher wages. These choices thereby maximize their wages (Pitts 2002). This holds true for all categories of women except for the most educated, who are more likely to earn more in a male profession than a female profession. There is also evidence that if it becomes more lucrative for women to move into male-dominated professions, women will do exactly this (Pitts 2002). In short, occupational choice is heavily influenced by existing constraints based on gender and pay-setting across occupations.

To make matters worse, when women increasingly enter a field, the average pay in that field tends to decline, relative to other fields. Levanon, England, and Allison (2009) found that when more women entered an industry, the relative pay of that industry 10 years later was lower. Specifically, they found evidence of devaluation—meaning the proportion of women in an occupation impacts the pay for that industry because work done by women is devalued.

Computer programming is an example of a field that has shifted from being a very mixed profession, often associated with secretarial work in the past, to being a lucrative, male-dominated profession (Miller 2016; Oldenziel 1999). While computer programming has evolved into a more technically demanding occupation in recent decades, there is no skills-based reason why the field needed to become such a male-dominated profession. When men flooded the field, pay went up. In contrast, when women became park rangers, pay in that field went down (Miller 2016).

Further compounding this problem is that many professions where pay is set too low by market forces, but which clearly provide enormous social benefits when done well, are female-dominated. Key examples range from home health workers who care for seniors, to teachers and child care workers who educate today’s children. If closing gender pay differences can help boost pay and professionalism in these key sectors, it would be a huge win for the economy and society.

The gender wage gap is real—and hurts women across the board. Too often it is assumed that this gap is not evidence of discrimination, but is instead a statistical artifact of failing to adjust for factors that could drive earnings differences between men and women. However, these factors—particularly occupational differences between women and men—are themselves affected by gender bias. Serious attempts to understand the gender wage gap should not include shifting the blame to women for not earning more. Rather, these attempts should examine where our economy provides unequal opportunities for women at every point of their education, training, and career choices.

— This paper was made possible by a grant from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors.

— The authors wish to thank Josh Bivens, Barbara Gault, and Heidi Hartman for their helpful comments.

About the authors

Jessica Schieder joined EPI in 2015. As a research assistant, she supports the research of EPI’s economists on topics such as the labor market, wage trends, executive compensation, and inequality. Prior to joining EPI, Jessica worked at the Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch) as a revenue and spending policies analyst, where she examined how budget and tax policy decisions impact working families. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international political economy from Georgetown University.

Elise Gould , senior economist, joined EPI in 2003. Her research areas include wages, poverty, economic mobility, and health care. She is a co-author of The State of Working America, 12th Edition . In the past, she has authored a chapter on health in The State of Working America 2008/09; co-authored a book on health insurance coverage in retirement; published in venues such as The Chronicle of Higher Education ,  Challenge Magazine , and Tax Notes; and written for academic journals including Health Economics , Health Affairs, Journal of Aging and Social Policy, Risk Management & Insurance Review, Environmental Health Perspectives , and International Journal of Health Services . She holds a master’s in public affairs from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Anderson, Julie, Ariane Hegewisch, and Jeff Hayes 2015. The Union Advantage for Women . Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Blau, Francine D., and Lawrence M. Kahn 2016. The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations . National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 21913.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 2015. American Time Use Survey public data series. U.S. Census Bureau.

Corbett, Christianne, and Catherine Hill. 2015. Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing . American Association of University Women (AAUW).

Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata (CPS ORG). 2011–2015. Survey conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics [ machine-readable microdata file ]. U.S. Census Bureau.

Goldin, Claudia. 2014. “ A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter .” American Economic Review, vol. 104, no. 4, 1091–1119.

Hegewisch, Ariane, and Asha DuMonthier. 2016. The Gender Wage Gap: 2015; Earnings Differences by Race and Ethnicity . Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Herbert, Jennifer, and Deborah Stipek. 2005. “The Emergence of Gender Difference in Children’s Perceptions of Their Academic Competence.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology , vol. 26, no. 3, 276–295.

Hersch, Joni, and Leslie S. Stratton. 2002. “ Housework and Wages .” The Journal of Human Resources , vol. 37, no. 1, 217–229.

Hewlett, Sylvia Ann, Carolyn Buck Luce, Lisa J. Servon, Laura Sherbin, Peggy Shiller, Eytan Sosnovich, and Karen Sumberg. 2008. The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology . Harvard Business Review.

Kroeger, Teresa, Tanyell Cooke, and Elise Gould. 2016.  The Class of 2016: The Labor Market Is Still Far from Ideal for Young Graduates . Economic Policy Institute.

Landers, Renee M., James B. Rebitzer, and Lowell J. Taylor. 1996. “ Rat Race Redux: Adverse Selection in the Determination of Work Hours in Law Firms .” American Economic Review , vol. 86, no. 3, 329–348.

Levanon, Asaf, Paula England, and Paul Allison. 2009. “Occupational Feminization and Pay: Assessing Causal Dynamics Using 1950-2000 U.S. Census Data.” Social Forces, vol. 88, no. 2, 865–892.

Miller, Claire Cain. 2016. “As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops.” New York Times , March 18.

Oldenziel, Ruth. 1999. Making Technology Masculine: Men, Women, and Modern Machines in America, 1870-1945 . Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 2015. The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behavior, Confidence .

Pitts, Melissa M. 2002. Why Choose Women’s Work If It Pays Less? A Structural Model of Occupational Choice. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Working Paper 2002-30.

Pope, Devin G., and Justin R. Sydnor. 2010. “ Geographic Variation in the Gender Differences in Test Scores .” Journal of Economic Perspectives , vol. 24, no. 2, 95–108.

See related work on Wages, Incomes, and Wealth | Women

See more work by Jessica Schieder and Elise Gould

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Women more than men adjust their careers for family life

For working parents in the U.S., the challenge of juggling careers and family life continues to be a front-burner issue – one that is being recognized by a growing number of employers who have adopted family-friendly policies such as paid leave. But while few Americans want to see a return to traditional roles of women at home and men in the workplace, one reality persists: Women most often are the ones who adjust their schedules and make compromises when the needs of children and other family members collide with work, Pew Research Center data show.

In a 2013 survey , we found that mothers were much more likely than fathers to report experiencing significant career interruptions in order to attend to their families’ needs. Part of this is due to the fact that gender roles are lagging behind labor force trends. While women represent nearly half of the U.S. workforce, they still devote more time than men on average to housework and child care and fewer hours to paid work, although the gap has narrowed significantly over time. Among working parents of children younger than 18, mothers in 2013 spent an average of 14.2 hours per week on housework, compared with fathers’ 8.6 hours. And mothers spent 10.7 hours per week actively engaged in child care, compared with fathers’ 7.2 hours.

Very Few Americans Say Full-Time Working Mom Is Ideal for Young Children

Another factor is the way that society views the bond between mothers and their children. In a 2012 Pew Research survey, the vast majority of Americans (79%) rejected the notion that women should return to  their traditional role in society . Yet when they were asked what is best for young children, very few adults (16%) said that having a mother who works full time is the “ideal situation.” Some 42% said that having a mother who works part time is ideal and 33% said what’s best for young children is to have a mother who doesn’t work at all. Even among full-time working moms, only about one-in-five (22%) said that having a full-time working mother is ideal for young children.

When asked what’s best for women themselves, the public expressed a similar sentiment. Only 12% of adults said the ideal situation for women with young children is to work full time. About half (47%) said working part time is ideal for these women, while 33% said not working at all would be the best situation.

The public applies a much different standard to fathers. When we asked about the ideal situation for men with young children, fully seven-in-ten adults said working full time would be ideal for these fathers. One-in-five adults said part-time work would be ideal and only 4% said it would be best for these dads not to work at all.

In reality, the “ideal” situation is not always the most practical, nor is it always attainable. In fact, according to U.S. government data , 64% of mothers with children younger than 6 are in the labor force, and among working mothers, 72% work full time.

Mothers, More Than Fathers, Experience Career Interruptions

One result is that while 42% of mothers with some work experience reported in 2013 that they had reduced their work hours in order to care for a child or other family member at some point in their career, only 28% of fathers said the same. Similarly, 39% of mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work in order to care for a family member (compared with 24% of men). And mothers were about three times as likely as men to report that at some point they quit a job so that they could care for a family member (27% of women vs. 10% of men).

It’s important to note that when we asked people whether they regretted taking these steps, the resounding answer was “No.” However, it’s also important to note that women who had experienced these interruptions were much more likely than men to say that this had a negative impact on their career. For example, women who took time off at some point in their work life to care for a child or other family member were twice as likely as men who did the same to say that this hurt their career overall (35% vs. 17%). Similarly, among those who took a significant amount of time off from work to look after a family member, 32% of women compared with 18% of men said doing this hurt them professionally.

According to many economists, family-related career interruptions can undermine women’s economic prospects in a variety of ways, by contributing to the gender wage gap and by narrowing the pipeline that feeds top-level jobs. Of course, for lots of women these interruptions may serve as the catalyst to a more balanced life which may in turn outweigh any lost financial benefits.

In her new book “Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family ,” Anne-Marie Slaughter raises many of these issues, and in a recent New York Times article , Slaughter said that what is needed in order to change individual workplaces is a “culture change: fundamental shifts in the way we think, talk and confer prestige.” Our data suggest that a generational shift, if not a culture change, may be coming. When we asked young adults (ages 18 to 32) who don’t yet have children whether they anticipate that becoming a parent will make it harder or easier for them to advance in their job or career, young men were just as likely as young women to say that children will likely slow down their career advancement (roughly 60% in each group). This suggests that Millennial men may be entering their careers with a different set of expectations about what balancing family life and work will entail.

At the same time, though, among young adults with children, women are much more likely than men to say being a working parent makes it harder for them to get ahead at work (58% of Millennial moms say this, versus 19% of Millennial dads).

These issues raise anew debates over government and workplace policies designed to support parents and families. While the national conversation continues, working parents across America will continue to juggle their many responsibilities – making time for caregiving along the way.

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Practical ways for women to reshape their careers

Crystal Eisinger: ‘Increase your tolerance to uncertainty’

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Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.

In the middle of the pandemic, Crystal Eisinger reinvented her career. She quit a senior marketing job at Google, used her savings to buy her favourite local café, and became chief executive of a music-streaming start-up, Keakie .

“Big corporations are a brilliant training ground but they can also be hierarchical and slow-moving,” she says. “Lockdown forced me to get off the treadmill, identify what was making me unhappy and make some dramatic changes.” Now, Eisinger is raising £3mn for Keakie’s pre-Series A funding round and has revamped the café, Urban Pantry , in Chiswick, London.

She is one of many who have re-evaluated their careers.

In last year’s so-called Great Resignation , swaths of workers left their jobs for better paid and/or more fulfilling work.

“Unexpected events or shocks like the pandemic create fertile conditions for major career changes by causing us to reflect on our priorities,” says Herminia Ibarra, organisational behaviour professor at London Business School, and author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader . “Faced with mortality, we ask the big existential questions and gather the courage to make changes.” 

Herminia Ibarra, London Business School: lockdowns disrupted ties to jobs and workplaces

Lockdown also disrupted ties to jobs and workplaces, she adds. “It’s easier to consider doing something else when you are no longer immersed in the social circles and daily routines of your job.”

A study last year by McKinsey, the consultancy, found women globally had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with more women than men intending to change job or downshift. A Catalyst survey in 2020 had found that 62 per cent of female employees said Covid-19 would hurt their prospects for promotion at work.

A career pivot is a “necessarily messy journey of exploration”, says Ibarra. She suggests it should involve small, practical steps to discover new options, rather than leaping into the unknown and hoping for the best.

Jeremy Borys

Start with a simple exercise, advises Jeremy Borys, a US-based managing director at global consulting firm AlixPartners. First, ask yourself: What do I want? What do I hope for? What can I deal with? What do I not want?

To move forwards, you also need to look back, he says. Think about the jobs you have done, the companies you have worked for and people you have worked with. What did you really enjoy?

“Don’t limit your definition of what the next role could be and don’t be blinded by salary or title,” says Borys. “When you’re doing something meaningful and fulfilling, the other things will come.”

What employers need to know

Encourage self-discovery The post-Covid era will involve career change — wanted or not. Allow staff the opportunity to recharge and reinvent. “Organisations should give people time for self-reflection,” says Aniela Unguresan, at Edge. Indeed, UK fintech Monzo Bank is to offer its 2,200 staff a paid three-month sabbatical every four years, as it rethinks how staff should balance working life after the pandemic.

Stay connected If you do lose employees, be sure to stay in touch. They may be exploring interesting new initiatives, and may even one day rejoin your organisation with new perspectives and ideas. “Nurture your alumni,” says Sarah Ellis, at Amazing If. “Your former employees can be your advocates as well as your future talent.”

Next, build your network. Instead of your safe and established network of friends and family, reconnect with the people you used to know — former colleagues, even people you went to school with. These “weak ties”, as Ibarra calls them, will help you think creatively about the future, open new doors, and avoid pigeonholing you.

Sarah Ellis, co-founder of careers ad­viser Amazing If and co-author of You Coach You , says “curious career conversations” are critical to a successful pivot. “Talk to people who are where you’d like to be. They’ll help you identify how you can transfer your talents in a useful way, and understand whether your assumptions about a career match the reality.”

To test the water, take on a new project at work or an extracurricular activity to boost skills and knowledge — whether that is volunteering, a part-time course or a side-hustle. The point is to try things out, experiment and adjust along the way. You don’t have to make a massive change overnight.

More from this report

Nica Burns: risk-taker who worked to reopen London’s theatreland

The post-Covid contract for dual-career couples

Lucy Kellaway: Getting the most out of a career change

Patience is running out over so-called banter

Why US mothers deserve a $2,400 pay cheque

After the Great Resignation, employers have embarked on the Great Hiring, as companies try to rebuild talent. With businesses reporting a skills shortage, this may also be a good time to change direction in your current organisation.

“Employers should offer staff the chance to explore different opportunities and jobs inside the company — or risk losing them,” says Aniela Unguresan, co-founder of the Edge Certified Foundation, based in Switzerland, which assesses gender equality in the workplace.

“People who go through career shifts are generally more flexible, more agile, more resilient and more courageous,” she explains. “Those are fundamental and necessary skills in today’s workplace.”

People who go through career shifts are more flexible, agile, resilient and courageous, say Aniela Unguresan

In a period of change, there will be dead ends, false starts and unexpected turns. But it is better to try out a variety of options. “You will never have perfect information or get to the point where a pivot is 100 per cent guaranteed to work out well,” adds Ellis.

It has been six months since Eisinger left Google for the top spot at Keakie. At times, she says, what kept her going was the insight of Ginni Rometty, former chief executive of IBM, that growth and comfort rarely coexist.

In short: “You have to increase your tolerance to uncertainty,” says Eisinger.

Essay contest: Women in leadership in climate change

women's career essay

The Financial Times is launching its 10th annual Women in Business essay competition, in partnership with the 30% Club and Henley Business School. The prize is a fully funded place on Henley’s part-time Executive MBA programme, with the winner announced in the FT in the autumn.

The competition is open to women and men who have relevant experience. Entrants should answer this question in no more than 800 words: ‘Would efforts to tackle climate change benefit from more women taking the lead?’

Entries should be sent to [email protected] by 5pm, May 23 2022. Information, terms and conditions can be found at: hly.ac/wil2022

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Women’s Work Advantages and Disadvantages Essay

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This argumentative essay about women’s work explains all the disadvantages and advantages of being a woman in the workplace. The positive and negative effects of being a working mother are also presented, so you might draw your own conclusion on the issue.


  • Disadvantages

In today’s world, women take active roles in employment, unlike during the olden days when they stayed at home and took care of their families. Women taking active roles in jobs have advantages and disadvantages. In contemporary society, women and men have equal opportunities for employment.

Working Women Advantages

The advantages of women working include more income for their families, the opportunity to explore their talents, and the promotion of economic growth. When women work, they make money that adds to their families’ financial well-being. This helps pay bills, buy food, and educate children. Women have goals and objectives to achieve in their lives. Working allows them to pursue their dreams and talents, as well as work on their goals by pursuing careers of their choice. Finally, women who work contribute towards economic growth through their jobs.

Women’s Work Disadvantages

Disadvantages for working women include the absence of enough time for their families, pressure from work-related stress, and conflicts of interest. Working women have little time to take care of their families because their jobs are very demanding and time-consuming. Many jobs are very stressful, and many women cannot handle high levels of work-related stress. Their nature predisposes them to anxiety and depression more than when compared to men. Finally, there is a conflict of interests. Their roles as mothers compromise their performance at work. They use working hours to take care of their children at the expense of their jobs.

Today, women seek employment opportunities just like men. This increases income for their families and gives them opportunities to explore their talents by pursuing careers of their choice. However, it affects their families because they do not spend enough time with their children. In addition, their role as mothers has involved my performance at work.

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Essay on Women Employment

Students are often asked to write an essay on Women Employment in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Women Employment


Women employment refers to the participation of women in the workforce. It’s crucial for economic growth and social development.

Importance of Women Employment

Despite its importance, women face many challenges. These include gender discrimination, lack of education, and societal norms.

To improve women employment, we need to promote gender equality, provide education, and break societal norms. This will empower women and contribute to societal progress.

250 Words Essay on Women Employment

Women employment is a critical parameter of socio-economic progress, shaping the dynamics of societal development. It entails the participation of women in the workforce, contributing to the economy, and enhancing their personal independence.

The Importance of Women Employment

Women employment is vital for various reasons. It aids in the economic growth of a nation by enhancing productivity and diversifying the labor market. It also promotes gender equality by breaking the stereotype of women being confined to domestic chores. Further, it empowers women, fostering their financial independence and boosting self-esteem.

Challenges in Women Employment

Despite its significance, women employment faces numerous obstacles. Gender bias, wage disparity, lack of opportunities, and societal prejudices often impede women’s professional growth. Additionally, the burden of balancing work and family responsibilities often discourages women from pursuing careers.

Strategies to Promote Women Employment

Addressing these challenges requires comprehensive strategies. Governments and organizations need to implement policies promoting gender equality at workplaces, such as equal pay and opportunities. Additionally, initiatives like flexible work hours, parental leave, and childcare facilities can help women balance work and family life.

In conclusion, women employment is a cornerstone of societal progress and economic growth. Despite the challenges, concerted efforts from governments, organizations, and society can foster a conducive environment for women to thrive professionally. This not only strengthens the economy but also propels the journey towards gender equality.

500 Words Essay on Women Employment

Women employment, a term that signifies the participation of women in the workforce, is a topic that has been at the forefront of societal discourse in recent years. It is more than just an economic issue; it is a matter of gender equality, societal progress, and human rights.

The Historical Perspective

Women employment is crucial for several reasons. Economically, it boosts the productivity of a nation and contributes to its growth. Socially, it can help break down gender stereotypes, promote equality, and reduce poverty. From a personal perspective, it allows women to be financially independent, boosts their self-esteem, and provides them with opportunities for personal growth and development.

Challenges and Barriers

Despite its importance, women employment faces numerous challenges. Discrimination, both overt and covert, still exists in many workplaces. Women often find themselves earning less than their male counterparts for doing the same job, a phenomenon known as the gender wage gap. They also face a ‘glass ceiling’ that prevents them from reaching top-level positions.

Another significant barrier is the lack of work-life balance. Women, particularly those with children, often struggle to balance their professional and personal lives due to societal expectations and inadequate support systems.

The Way Forward

Education also plays a vital role. By providing girls with equal access to quality education, we can equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workforce.

Moreover, societal attitudes need to change. This includes challenging gender stereotypes, promoting shared responsibility for household chores, and recognizing the value of women’s work, both paid and unpaid.

Women employment is a multifaceted issue that encompasses economic, social, and personal dimensions. While progress has been made, much work remains to be done. By addressing the challenges and barriers that hinder women’s full participation in the workforce, we can move towards a more equal, inclusive, and prosperous society.

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

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Essay on Women Empowerment in English


  • Updated on  
  • May 3, 2024

essay on women empowerment

Women empowerment is one of the most debated social topics. It means recognising the importance of gender equality, and women’s participation in decision-making and offering them equal opportunities in education, employment, others. Women empowerment talks about making women strong so that they can lead a healthy and prosperous life and contribute to the development of society. Today we will be discussing some sample essay on women empowerment, which will cover details like how can eliminate discrimination against women, challenge traditional gender roles, and promote equal opportunities for women in various aspects of life.

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Quick Read: Speech About Dreams

Long Essay on Women’s Empowerment

“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Women empowerment refers to the practice of making women independent so that they can make their own decisions and take decisions without any familial or societal restrictions. In simple terms, it entitles women to take charge of their personal development. The patriarchal society has always deprived women of their rights.

The main motive of women’s empowerment is to help them stand equally with men. It is a foundational step to ensure the prosperous growth of a family as well as the country. By empowering women, the world would witness gender equality and help women from every stratum of society stand on their own and steer their lives as per their wishes.

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Women empowerment is the process of giving women the ability to live a happy and respected life in society. Women are empowered when they have unrestricted access to chances in a range of domains, such as education, profession, and lifestyle, among others. It involves things like education, awareness, literacy, and training to help them improve their position. It also involves decision-making authority. A woman feels powerful when she makes a significant decision. Empowering women is the most important factor in a country’s overall growth. If a household has just one earning member, while another family has both men and women earning, who will have a better standard of living? The solution is straightforward: a household in which both men and women work. As a result, a country where men and women work together grows more quickly.

‘Feminism does not aim to make women powerful. Women are already powerful. It is about influencing the way the rest of the world views your strength.” Women have always had fewer opportunities and possibilities to develop their talents and knowledge since ancient times. Although the world is made up of both men and women. But men were regarded as the family’s most powerful members. They were the family’s decision-makers and were in charge of making a living. Women, on the other hand, were believed to be responsible person for all home chores and child-rearing, and they were not engaged in making any important family decisions. The roles were assigned depending on gender. If we look at the whole picture, research shows that women’s subjects are either centred on their reproductive role and their body, or their economic position as workers. However, none of them is aimed at empowering women. Women’s Empowerment is a progressive technique of putting power in the hands of women for them to have a happy and respectable existence in society. Women are empowered when they have access to opportunities in several sectors, such as the right to an education, gender equality, a professional (equal wage) lifestyle, and others. However, there are no constraints or limitations. It involves training, awareness, and increasing their position via education, literacy, and decision-making authority. For the total growth of each country, women’s empowerment is the most essential sector. Previously, the men were the sole breadwinners in the household. Assume the household has one earning person; on the other side, suppose the family has both male and women earning members. Who will have a better way of life? The answer is simple: a household in which both the man and the woman work. As a result, when gender equality is prioritized, a country’s growth rate accelerates. Standing up for equality, women have empowered and spoken up for other women.’

Essay on Women Empowerment in 200 Words

‘Women’s empowerment encompasses more than just ensuring that women get their basic rights. In its truest form, women’s empowerment comprises the aspects of independence, equality as well as freedom of expression. Through this, the real strive lies in ensuring that we bring gender equality.

When given the right support, women have shone brilliantly in every field. Even in India, we have seen women handle diverse roles, be it a Prime Minister, Astronaut , Entrepreneur, Banker and much more. Further, women are also considered the backbone of a family. From domestic chores to nurturing children, they handle multiple responsibilities. This is why they are great at multitasking and often many working women efficiently juggle between professional and personal responsibilities. While the urban cities have working women, the rural areas have still restrained them to household chores. How can we aspire to prosper as a nation where every girl does not get access to education or make their own choices? India is a country where we worship goddesses while we don’t bother thinking about gender equality. 

Hence, for all our mothers, sisters and daughters we must aim at creating an environment of integrity. We must boost their confidence to make them capable enough to make their decisions in every phase of life and this is how we can strive towards bringing women empowerment.’

Recommended Read: Essay on Sustainable Development: Format & Examples

Popular women can play an important role when it comes to empowering other women. These influential women are aware of the difficulties faced by women in our society and can see their problems from their perspectives, as they have experienced similar situations. Nadia Murad Basee, a German human rights activist once said, “I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.” Some other popular and influential women in the world are:

  • Gloria Marie Steinem
  • Malala Yousafzai
  • Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Jane Seymour Fonda
  • Betty Friedan
  • Halima Aden

Quick Read: Speech About Life

Almost all countries, regardless of how progressive, have a history of mistreating women. To put it another way, women from all over the world have been defiant to achieve their current standing. While Western nations continue to make progress, third-world countries such as India continue to lag in terms of women’s empowerment. Women’s empowerment is more important than ever in India. India is one of the countries where women are not safe. This is due to a variety of factors.

Not only that, but horrific crimes against women such as rape, acid attacks, the dowry system, honour killings, domestic violence, and other forms of violence against women continue to occur throughout India. Women should account for 50% of the entire population. However, due to female foeticide practises, which are still prevailing in the rural and underprivileged sections of Indian societies, the girl-child population is rapidly declining, affecting the country’s sex ratio. Furthermore, the education and freedom scenario is extremely regressive in this situation.

Women are not permitted to continue their education and are married off at a young age. In certain areas, men continue to dominate women, as though it is the woman’s responsibility to labour for him indefinitely. They don’t let them go out or have any form of freedom and personal life. As a result, we can see how women’s empowerment is a pressing issue. We must equip these women with the tools they need to stand up for themselves and never be victims of injustice.

Also Read: Women’s Equality Day

Also Read: 2-Minute Speech on Holi

There is a wide range of approaches and methods to empower women. Individuals and the government must work together to achieve this. Girls’ education should be made obligatory so that they do not become illiterate and unable to support themselves.

Women, regardless of gender, must be given equal chances in all fields. Women empowerment may also be achieved through government-sponsored programmes as well as on an individual level.

On a personal level, we should begin to appreciate women and provide them with chances equal to males. We should promote and encourage them to pursue jobs, further education, and entrepreneurial endeavours, among other things.

To empower women, the government has implemented programmes such as the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojana, Mahila Shakti Kendra, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana , and others. Apart from these programmes, we can all help women by eradicating societal problems such as the dowry system and child marriage. These simple actions will improve women’s status in society and help them feel more powerful.

Find Out How Falguni Nayar Made Nykaa a Beautiful Success

“To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” Hillary Clinton

Writing an essay on women empowerment? Check Out Top Women Entrepreneurs !

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” Madeleine Albright

Before we begin with the essay samples on Women’s Empowerment, take a look at the following tips you must keep in mind while drafting an essay: 

  • Analyse the different topics carefully and pick according to your knowledge and familiarisation with the topic.  
  • Plan your time wisely and bifurcate it for outlining, writing and revision. 
  • Highlight/underline your key sentences for each paragraph.
  • Emphasise your introduction and conclusion while also keeping the main body of the content as concise as possible. 
  • Thoroughly revise it after completion.

Must Read: How to Write an Essay on Disaster Management?

“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong, it’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” G.D. Anderson

Women are taught to mould themselves based on others’ preferences and men are taught to lead because, at the end of the day, women have to manage household chores whereas men are the heroes saving their families and providing them financial support. This is the stereotype that has existed for centuries in India and one of the reasons women are denied basic human rights in society. A woman is denied the right to raise her opinions even in her household matters, political or financial viewpoints are far behind.  Women are born leaders and if given the opportunity can excel in every field. We live in a male-dominated society where a male has every right to do whatever he desires however thought in women’s minds is sacred. For centuries, women were not allowed to eat before men or sit in front of other men. Gender equality and women empowerment is a major concern globally. Gender equality starts with providing the same and equal resources of education to both genders. Education of girl child should also be a priority and not just an option. An educated woman will be able to build a better life for herself and the ones surrounding her. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential for the growth of women in society. Women empowerment ensures that every female gets an opportunity to get an education, seek professional training, and spread awareness. However, gender quality will ensure that access to resources is provided equally to both genders and ensure equal participation. Even at the professional level women face gender inequality because a male candidate is promoted way before a female candidate. The mindset should be changed and only deserving candidates should be promoted. Gender quality is a key step towards sustainable development and ensures basic human rights for everyone.

Must Read: Essay on Scientific Discoveries

“A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman.” Melinda Gates

‘Education is the biggest tool in women’s empowerment and also a factor that helps in the overall development of the country. Education can bring a change in women’s life. As the first prime minister of India once said “If you educate a man you educate an individual, however, if you educate a woman you educate a whole family.

Women empowered means mother India empowered” An educated woman will promote the education of other females around her, mentor them and also be a better guide to her children. Education helps women gain self-confidence, esteem, ability to provide financial support. Education will also help to reduce the infant mortality rate because an educated woman is aware of health care, laws, and her rights.

Educating a woman will benefit her and also the development of society. With proper education, women can achieve more socially, and economically and build their careers. Women are still being denied their right to education in rural parts of India. Education will also reduce child marriage which is still practised in some parts of India also help in controlling overpopulation.

The government has launched various schemes over the years to create awareness around women’s education such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan , Operation Black-Board , Beti Padhaoo Beti Bachao , and many more. Education helps women to identify the good and bad and change their outlook, way of thinking, and way of handling things. Education helps women to become independent. Indian women have the lowest literacy rate as compared to other countries.

Education is a fundamental right of all and no one should be denied the right to education. Education helps to meet the necessities of life, and confidence to raise a voice against domestic violence or sexual harassment. Be a part of a change and empower a woman with the help of education.’

Here is an Essay on Education System

“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” Michelle Obama

Women have been facing issues since the day they were born. Fighting for their rights, society’s stereotypes, and their freedom. Women’s Empowerment means encouraging women through education, at a professional level, accepting their opinions, and providing them with the right they desire. Women should not stay behind someone’s shadow and not be able to express themselves. The main motive of women’s empowerment is to give women a chance to outshine others and get equal rights in society. The first step of women’s empowerment is literacy. A well-educated woman is confident, outspoken, and able to make decisions. Especially in a country like India, If women get a chance to study they can be a prime minister like Indira Gandhi, IPS like Kiran Bedi , or become a famous CEO like Indira Nooyi .

The need for women’s empowerment has existed for a long time but only in the last few years, it has become popular. Women’s empowerment is not just a fight for equal rights. Women empowerment is the upliftment of women from a society constantly pulling them down. In a country like India where female goddesses are worshipped at the same time a woman faces sexual harassment, is denied the right to education, her voice is suppressed and becomes the next case of domestic violence. Indian society will only be able to evolve when they stop putting constant pressure on women and allow them to share their thoughts with others. A woman in India is restricted to household chores and taking care of family members. Women’s Empowerment is the need of the hour in India because awareness among women is important for them to understand their rights. If they are aware of their basic rights only then women will be able to fight for it. The first step towards women’s empowerment starts with supporting their opinions. Don’t mock them or bury their opinions. Boost their confidence and build their self-esteem. Encourage them to pursue their dreams, provide resources for help and be their mentor. Women have the ability not only to shape their lives but also to shape the world. Equal opportunities and the right to make their own decisions are the basics to start with women’s empowerment.

Women’s empowerment is desperately required in today’s cultures. It is critical for women’s self-esteem as well as for society. Women have the right to participate equally in education, society, the economy, and politics. Women may participate in society because they have the freedom to select their religion, language, employment, and other activities.

Women’s Empowerment is the process of providing women with all of the rights and amenities available in society so that they can live freely and without fear or limitation. Women should be granted the same rights as men in society, with no gender discrimination.

Female or women empowerment, according to Keshab Chandra Mandal, may be classified into five categories: social, educational, economic, political, and psychological.

The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) are a collection of Principles that provide businesses with direction on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace, and community.

Improved female education leads to higher levels of economic growth because women spend 90%of their earnings back on their families, whereas males only invest 30-40% of their earnings. This is only one example of how women’s empowerment has a beneficial impact. Like this, there are several other benefits and positive sides of women’s empowerment

Gender Discrimination, Sexual Abuse and Harassment, Education, Child Marriage, etc.

Great social reformers in the past like  Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Acharya Vinobha Bhave and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar  etc abolished ghastly practices like sati and child marriage and worked relentlessly in the past for the upliftment of women in India.

Equal pay, financial independence etc are some examples of women empowerment.

In the Indian constitution, many provisions include women empowerment such as Article 15 which enables the state to make special provisions for women.

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Research: How Remote Work Impacts Women at Different Stages of Their Careers

  • Natalia Emanuel,
  • Emma Harrington,
  • Amanda Pallais

women's career essay

Data on software engineers at a Fortune 500 company revealed that junior and senior women saw contrasting costs and benefits.

While much has been said about the potential benefits of remote work for women, recent research examines how working from home affects the professional development of female software engineers at a Fortune 500 company, revealing that its impact varies by career stage. Junior women engineers benefit significantly from in-person mentorship, receiving 40% more feedback when sitting near colleagues, while senior women face reduced productivity due to increased mentoring duties. Male engineers also benefit from proximity, but less so. The authors suggest that recognizing and rewarding mentorship efforts could mitigate these disparities, ensuring junior women receive adequate support remotely and senior women are properly compensated for their mentoring contributions.

Since the pandemic began, work from home (WFH) has at times been pitched as a means of supporting women in the workplace. This argument often focuses on WFH’s potential to help women juggle the demands of their jobs with the demands of their families. However, WFH’s impact on women’s professional development may vary over their careers. In our research, we explored how WFH impacts young women as they try to get a foothold in their careers and how it affects the often-invisible mentorship work done by more senior women.

women's career essay

  • NE Natalia Emanuel serves as a research economist at the New York Fed.
  • EH Emma Harrington is a professor at the University of Virginia.
  • AP Amanda Pallais is a professor at Harvard University.

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Empowering Women: Why More Women Should Start A Business In 2024

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In 2024, the landscape of entrepreneurship is ripe for transformation, and women are on the brink of unprecedented opportunities. The journey of starting a business is not only a pathway to personal and financial independence but also a powerful catalyst for societal change. By embracing entrepreneurship, women can leverage their unique perspectives and skills to innovate and address pressing challenges. This journey allows them to create flexible work environments, achieve economic empowerment, and inspire future generations.

With a wealth of resources and a supportive ecosystem available, there has never been a better time for women to venture into the world of business and make a lasting impact.

Here are compelling reasons why more women should embrace entrepreneurship in 2024.

1. economic empowerment and financial independence.

Starting a business offers women the chance to achieve financial independence and security. With the gender pay gap still prevalent in many industries, entrepreneurship provides an avenue for women to control their earnings and build wealth . By creating their own businesses, women can set their value and break free from traditional salary constraints.

2. Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

One of the significant advantages of running a business is the flexibility it offers. Women often juggle multiple roles, including caregiving responsibilities. Entrepreneurship allows for the creation of a work schedule that accommodates these responsibilities, leading to a better work-life balance. This flexibility is crucial for women seeking to pursue their professional aspirations without sacrificing family commitments.

3. Innovative Perspectives and Diverse Leadership

Women bring unique perspectives and innovative ideas to the business world. Diverse leadership is proven to drive creativity and improve problem-solving, leading to more robust and resilient businesses. By stepping into entrepreneurial roles, women can influence corporate cultures and introduce products and services that cater to underserved markets.

Best High-Yield Savings Accounts Of 2024

Best 5% interest savings accounts of 2024, 4. supportive ecosystem and resources.

The entrepreneurial ecosystem in 2024 is more supportive than ever before. Numerous organizations, networks, and programs are dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs succeed. From mentorship opportunities to funding and grants specifically for women-led businesses, the resources available can significantly ease the journey of starting and growing a business.

5. Creating Social Impact

Women entrepreneurs often prioritize social impact in their business models , addressing issues such as sustainability, community development, and social justice. By starting their own businesses, women have the power to drive change and contribute positively to society. This focus on social impact not only benefits communities but also enhances the business's reputation and customer loyalty.

6. Inspiring the Next Generation

When women become successful entrepreneurs, they are role models for future generations. Young girls and women are inspired by seeing successful women in business, fostering a culture of ambition and resilience. This inspiration can lead to a ripple effect, encouraging more women to pursue entrepreneurship and further breaking down gender barriers in the business world.

The bottom line is that the call for more women to start businesses in 2024 is not just about gender equality; it is about harnessing the full potential of the workforce and driving economic growth. Women entrepreneurs bring diverse perspectives, innovative solutions, and a commitment to social impact that can transform industries and communities. By stepping into entrepreneurship, women can achieve personal and financial empowerment, inspire future generations, and create a more inclusive and equitable business landscape.

Melissa Houston, CPA is the author of Cash Confident: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating a Profitable Business and the founder of She Means Profit . As a Business Strategist for small business owners, Melissa helps women making mid-career shifts, to launch their dream businesses, and I also guide established business owners to grow their businesses to more profitably.

The opinions expressed in this article are not intended to replace any professional or expert accounting and/or tax advice whatsoever.

Melissa Houston

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Human Rights Careers

5 Women’s Rights Essays You Can Read For Free

Women and girls are the most disenfranchised group in the world. Even in places where huge strides have been made, gaps in equality remain. Women’s rights are important within the realm of human rights. Here are five essays exploring the scope of women’s rights, which you can download or read for free online:

“A Vindication on the Rights of Woman” – Mary Wollstonecraft

Mother of Mary Shelley, who wrote the novel Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft is a juggernaut of history in her own right, though for a different reason. Self-educated, Wollstonecraft dedicated her life to women’s education and feminism. Her 1792 essay A Vindication on the Rights of Woman represents one of the earliest writings on women’s equality. In the Western world, many consider its arguments the foundation of the modern women’s rights movement. In the essay, Wollstonecraft writes that men are not  more reasonable or rational than women, and that women must be educated with the same care, so they can contribute to society. If women were left out of the intellectual arena, the progress of society would stop. While most of us believe the idea that women are inherently inferior to men is very outdated, it’s still an accepted viewpoint in many places and in many minds. Wollstonecraft’s Vindication is still relevant.

“The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” – Audre Lorde

Poet and activist Audre Lorde defied the boundaries of traditional feminism and cried out against its racist tendencies. While today debates about intersectional feminism (feminism that takes into account race, sexuality, etc) are common, Audre Lorde wrote her essay on women’s rights and racism back in 1984. In “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” Lorde explains how ignoring differences between women – whether its race, class, or sexuality – halts any real change. By pretending the suffering of women is “all the same,” and not defined by differences, white women actually contribute to oppression. Lorde’s essay drew anger from the white feminist community. It’s a debate that feels very current and familiar.

“How to convince sceptics of the value of feminism” – Laura Bates

Laura Bates founded the Everyday Sexism Project website back in 2012. It documents examples of everyday sexism of every degree and has become very influential. In her essay from 2018, Bates takes reader comments into consideration over the essay’s three parts. This unique format allows the essay to encompass multiple views, just not Bates’, and takes into consideration a variety of experiences people have with skeptics of feminism. Why even debate skeptics? Doesn’t that fuel the trolls? In some cases, yes, but skeptics of feminism aren’t trolls, they are numerous, and make up every part of society, including leadership. Learning how to talk to people who don’t agree with you is incredibly important.

“Why Can’t A Smart Woman Love Fashion?” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the most influential voices in women’s rights writing. Her book, We Should All Be Feminists , is a great exploration of 21st-century feminism. In this essay from Elle, Adichie takes a seemingly “small” topic about fashion and makes a big statement about independence and a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants. There is still a lot of debate about what a feminist should look like, if wearing makeup contributes to oppression, and so on. “Why Can’t A Smart Woman Love Fashion?” is a moving, personal look at these sorts of questions.

“The male cultural elite is staggeringly blind to #MeToo. Now it’s paying for it.” – Moira Donegan

There are countless essays on the Me Too Movement, and most of them are great reads. In this one from The Guardian, Moira Donegan highlights two specific men and the publications that chose to give them a platform after accusations of sexual misconduct. It reveals just how pervasive the problem is in every arena, including among the cultural, intellectual elite, and what detractors of Me Too are saying.

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About the author, emmaline soken-huberty.

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.

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Many gymnasts are forced to walk away at their peak. a new women’s league is hoping to change that.

Luisa Blanco knows her gymnastics career has an expiration date.

The funny thing is, the older the recent Alabama graduate gets, the more it seems to keep getting pushed back.

For a long time, the 22-year-old Blanco figured her final season with the Crimson Tide this spring would be it. Then she qualified to compete for Colombia in the Paris Olympics at last year’s Pan Am Games, a dream she had long ago abandoned.

And while Blanco - a Texas native whose family is from Colombia - is focusing her attention on getting prepared for the Games, she is not sure she wants to see this chapter of her life end with the closing ceremony.

“Part of me wants to do gymnastics forever,” Blanco said. “It’s something that is not easy to walk away from.”

She’s hardly alone. Every year dozens of collegiate or elite athletes reach a crossroads where opportunities to continue vanish. They graduate. Or they get hurt. Or burned out. Or some combination of the three.

Starting next year, however, there could be an alternative.

The Global Impact Gymnastics Alliance wants to provide women a chance to continue competing until they’re ready to walk away on their terms. Co-founders Aimee Boorman, Maura Fox and LaPrise Williams believe the spike in popularity of women’s sports in general - from the Caitlin Clark/Angel Reese-fueled interest in basketball to soccer to hockey - and NCAA gymnastics in particular in recent years have created a landscape where a professional league will work.

The league plans to host its initial event sometime in 2025 with a roster of post-collegiate, international and perhaps elite gymnasts who aren’t ready to essentially be forced into retirement by circumstance.

“Female gymnasts are ending their career in college and most of them are at the peak shape in their life,” said Boorman, who helped guide superstar Simone Biles to five Olympic medals and three world all-around championships. “Mentally they’re in the right place. Physically they’re in the right place. Then they have to deal with this sense of loss and this mourning process. We are providing the platform that allows to them to continue.”

There was once a belief in the U.S. that female gymnasts needed to be in their teens if they wanted to compete at the highest levels of the sport, a myth Blanco grew up with while training at the Dallas-area gym owned by Valeri Liukin, whose daughter Nastia won the Olympic title at Beijing in 2008 at 18.

“That mentality of your body peaking at 15, 16 years old so that you can get ready and go to the Olympics, that was very much ingrained in me from a very, very young age,” she said.

That’s no longer the case in 2024.

There’s a strong likelihood that the five-woman U.S. Olympic team for Paris will be comprised almost entirely of athletes in their 20s, led by the 27-year-old Biles.

“With the average age of Olympic gymnasts continuing to climb, we are seeing that there is a necessity for an additional environment that supports and celebrates the phenomenal athletes in our sport outside of the traditional arenas of national and college competition,” said Cal women’s co-head coach Liz Crandall-Howell, who along with her husband Justin led the Bears to a program-best NCAA runner-up finish this spring.

The shift is due to several factors, including the easing of NCAA compensation rules that allow elite gymnasts like 2020 Olympic champion Sunisa Lee to compete collegiately while cashing in on their success.

Gymnasts like LSU’s Livvy Dunne have landed high-profile sponsorship deals that have helped raise the profile of the sport to something beyond the every-four-year fascination with the Olympics.

GIGA wants to provide an outlet for gymnasts both athletically and financially, believing the league will let the athletes remain in the sport longer, letting them grow their personal brand in the process.

The gymnastics will be a hybrid of sorts. GIGA will use the 10.0 scoring system - figuring it’s more accessible to casual fans than the more complex international scoring system - and is looking for a middle ground between the NCAA and elite levels.

There will be a slight lean toward artistry over difficulty, though there should still be plenty of opportunities for athletes still looking to push their skills. It just won’t necessarily be required to impress the judges.

“The code (of points) is geared to make sure these women have longevity in the sport,” Boorman said. “We want to see the big exciting gymnastics but we also aren’t going to push skills that have high injury rate that could shorten their careers.”

In a perfect world, Boorman sees a day where GIGA has a handful of events in the late-spring/early summer, multiple training centers, paid maternity leave and “everything else a professional athlete should have because it’s a job, not just a hobby.”

That of course, will take a significant amount of investment and hopefully a broadcast partner for starters. Boorman points to the rising TV ratings and streaming numbers for pretty much anything women’s sports-related at the moment as evidence the market is there.

The meets - in whatever way they reach the audience - won’t look like a typical broadcast.

GIGA plans to lean into AI and tech to give viewers specific metrics on everything from the speed of a gymnast sprinting down the vault runway to the height they reach during a tumbling pass.

“This event is not going to be a show, it is going to be a competition,” Boorman said. “We really want to honor the athletes and their physical prowess. They are the best in the world at what they do.”

And just as importantly, allow them to stay in something they clearly love. Blanco watched teammates at Alabama graduate and struggle with having gymnastics become they “did,” not something they “do.” GIGA could potentially change that.

“Starting something like this is incredible,” Blanco said. “Because it gives you the opportunity to not leave something unfinished for as long as your body can let you.”

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How Biden’s New Immigration Policy Works

The new policy will give some 500,000 people a pathway to citizenship.

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The silhouette of a person trying to cut a hole in a fence marked with barbed wire.

By Hamed Aleaziz

President Biden’s new immigration policy protects some 500,000 people who are married to U.S. citizens from deportation and gives them a pathway to citizenship.

The election-year move comes just two weeks after Mr. Biden imposed a major crackdown at the U.S.-Mexico border, cutting off access to asylum for people who crossed into the United States illegally.

The policy announced on Tuesday is aimed at people who have been living in the United States for more than a decade and have built their lives and families here.

Here is how it works:

Why do the spouses of American citizens need protection?

Marrying an American citizen generally provides a pathway to U.S. citizenship. But people who crossed the southern border illegally — rather than arriving in the country with a visa — must return to their home countries to complete the process for a green card, something that can take years. The new program allows families to remain in the country while they pursue legal status.

Who is eligible?

There are roughly 1.1 million undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens in the United States, according to Fwd.us , an immigration advocacy group, but not all of them are eligible for the program.

The spouses must have lived in the United States for 10 years and have been married to an American citizen as of June 17. They cannot have a criminal record. Officials estimate that the policy will provide legal status and protections for about 500,000 people. The benefits would also extend to the roughly 50,000 children of undocumented spouses who became stepchildren to American citizens.

When will the program take effect?

Biden administration officials said they expected the program to start by the end of the summer. Those eligible will then be able to apply for the benefits.

Why is President Biden doing this now?

Mr. Biden is trying to strike a tricky balance on immigration, which is a serious political vulnerability for him. Polls show Americans want tougher policies. Just two weeks ago, Mr. Biden announced a crackdown on asylum at the southern border.

His new policy, giving hundreds of thousands of immigrants new legal protections, is a way for him to answer the calls from the progressive base of the Democratic Party, which has accused the White House of betraying campaign promises to enact a more humane approach to immigrants.

Hamed Aleaziz covers the Department of Homeland Security and immigration policy. More about Hamed Aleaziz


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